It was 25 years ago this week that Quad-City River Bandits pitcher John Fritz accomplished something that hadn’t been done in 31 years and hasn’t been repeated in the 25 years since.
Fritz is the only 20-game winner in the last 56 seasons in the Midwest League to reach that plateau, a feat that will likely never be repeated given the changing nature of the game.
“That’s a record he’d better appreciate because I think it’s going to stand forever,’’ current Quad-Cities manager Russ Steinhorn said. “The opportunities for something like that just aren’t there anymore because of the way the game is being played now. That’s pretty impressive.’’
Today’s minor-league pitchers begin the season with stricter pitch counts that limit early-season opportunities for starters to win games and success now leads to quicker promotions to higher levels than it did in 1992 when the 6-foot-1 Fritz went 20-4 with a 3.03 ERA for Quad-Cities.
Fritz, who spent eight years in the minor leagues and now works as a financial planner in Pennsylvania, doesn’t take the accomplishment for granted.
“It’s a pretty special memory for me, to win 20 games in a season at any level is special and for me, everything had to fall just right for it to happen,’’ Fritz said. “I was part of a great team that year and the offense gave us all plenty of run support.’’
Future major leaguers Orlando Palmeiro, Mark Sweeney, Chris Pritchett and Chris Turner helped the River Bandits to a 91-46 regular-season record. The team hit .253, but kept itself in games with a .972 fielding percentage that rated as the second-best in league history at the time.
That combination positioned Fritz to record decisions in 24 of the 27 games he pitched, striking out 143 batters and walking 69 in 172.1 innings of work.
He dominated late in the season, allowing just five earned runs in his last 51 innings of work but it still took some creativity for Fritz to reach 20 wins.
He won his 19th game 25 years ago today when the River Bandits completed a suspended game against Clinton. Victory No. 20 followed three days later when Fritz came out of the bullpen to earn the win in 6-3 game at Springfield.
“When I got to 19, the manager (Mitch Seoane) wanted to find a way to give me a chance to get the 20th win,’’ Fritz said. “That’s always been a special milestone and I still appreciate that I was given the chance to make it happen. I’ve always seen it as a team thing. It’s a special memory.’’
Climbing: On the brink of qualifying for the Midwest League playoffs, Fort Wayne will do so without one of its season-long leaders.
Fernando Tatis Jr., the first teenager in the Midwest League to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases since Clinton’s Nick Franklin in 2010, has been promoted by the Padres to AA San Antonio.
Tatis bypassed the high-A level after batting .281 over 117 games with the TinCaps.
Davis honored: J.D. Davis, a .303 hitter for Quad-Cities during the 2014 season, was named last week to the Texas League postseason all-star team.
Davis was named as the third baseman on the team after batting .279 in 87 games for Corpus Christi and leading the league with 21 home runs before earning a late-season promotion from the Astros to AAA Fresno.
Picked: Former River Bandits pitcher Jordan Jankowski, who got his first taste competition at the major-league level for Houston earlier this season, was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers last week.
Jankowski was placed by Los Angeles on its Oklahoma City roster.
Weekly honors: Throwing the first six innings of a combined no-hitter last week against Quad-Cities led Beloit pitcher Zack Erwin to be named Monday as the Midwest League pitcher of the week.
Erwin, acquired by Oakland in a 2015 trade with the White Sox for Brett Lawrie, struck out four and walked one batter in his lone start of the week.
Dayton third baseman Tyler Sparks was named the player of the week after going 9-for-27 with three homers and eight RBI.
Alumni report: Two key members of the River Bandits’ 2013 Midwest League championship team, Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers, are currently working through rehab assignments within the Astros farm system.
Sidelined by a thumb injury since July 17, Correa is scheduled to make his third rehab start for AAA Fresno tonight with an eye on returning to the majors early in September.
McCullers, who last pitched for Houston on July 30, pitched for Fresno on Saturday and is expected to make a start for AA Corpus Christi on Wednesday or Thursday.
WEDNESDAY: at Peoria, 6:30 p.m.
THURSDAY: at Peoria, 6:30 p.m.
FRIDAY: at Peoria, 6:30 p.m.
SATURDAY: vs. Wisconsin, 6:30 p.m., River Bandits beer stein giveaway, Fan Appreciation Night
SUNDAY: vs. Wisconsin, 1:15 p.m., Mega Matchbox car drop, United Healthcare Family Sunday, bark in the park, pregame autographs
MONDAY: vs. Wisconsin, 1 p.m., Brew & Brats Monday
WEDNESDAY: vs. Kane County, 6:30 p.m., United Way Night, Wings Wednesday
THURSDAY: vs. Kane County, 6:30 p.m., Jewell-Osco discount admission night, Whittier Elementary Night, Thirsty Thursday beverage discounts
FRIDAY: vs. Kane County, 6:30 p.m., 2018 ticket raffle, postgame fireworks
SATURDAY: at Burlington, 6:30 p.m.
SUNDAY: at Burlington, 2 p.m.
MONDAY: at Burlington, 2 p.m.